Young Agrarians is celebrating the tenth year of the Business Mentorship Network (BMN) program in BC and the second year of the program in the Prairies! The BMN offers farm business mentorship to a diverse array of new and young farmers. The mentorship is offered over the course of a year. Through one-on-one mentorship, peer networks and online workshops new farmers develop the skills necessary to operate ecologically sustainable and financially viable farm businesses.
Applications for mentees across Western Canada are open October 1st to 31st, 2023.
Mentor applications (paid position) are accepted year-round. Apply here!
Check out one Mentee’s story below and how the BMN made a contribution to the success of their farm.
Want more? Head over to our BMN Blog for more mentorship stories.
Meet a Mentee: Blooms on 7 Flower Farm
It’s hard to believe that it’s October, it felt like we blinked and our growing season was finished. And what a season it was, in fact, you could say that we had one hail of a summer! But before we get to our mid-August hail situation, we should talk about our biggest lesson for the 2023 season: staffing.
By mid-July we were poised to tackle our busiest season to date. We’d refined our upick, the alpaca experiences were fully booked, the weddings were quickly approaching and our workshops were at capacity. But. We had not scaled up our staffing to help meet this growth. We underestimated the amount of time it takes to administrate the increased demand and overestimated our ability to continue to just do it all.
We’re a family owned and operated farm whose identity as a business is partly tied up in the fact that when you come for a upick or workshop you’re meeting one of us, you’re talking about your own tulip troubles or how you love that this summer the farm is different from your visit last summer. We didn’t want to lose that. Our mentor, Tam from Prairie Gardens, told us something incredibly valuable during one of our early meetings last spring: people want to hear and be a part of the “farm story” — your customers are in fact paying for your story.
This resonated with us but it also shone a light on an issue faced by many businesses. Hiring and retaining staff who *get it* was an added complexity to an already sub-optimal employment situation. As a seasonal, agricultural business it’s difficult to attract employees as the work is hard, the days are long and the employment is temporary. Not exactly a dream job! While this sounds incredibly bleak, we did find four absolute gems and are so fortunate that they spent a good chunk of their summer with us. But it took time. It took trial and error. It took planning and coordinating and possessing another set of skills we didn’t originally account for when we set out to start a flower farm.
So what is the takeaway? Hiring staff for 2024 starts now. We will clearly articulate our expectations, there will be a multi step interview process and a probationary period to ensure that our customers will still get to chat tulip troubles and farm changes because the people we’ve brought into our farm family understand that our customers are paying for the experience. Most of all? We need to let go a bit. As the farm expands so too does our inability to do it all. It will definitely help that we’ve got a few staff who will be returning with a season’s experience under their belts — they’ll be key for training the 2024 team.
I opened this with hail but spent a lot of time talking about staff. Maybe that’s farming/business ownership in a nutshell? You start with the intention to harvest a row of dahlias but end up having to fix some irrigation, answer a customer’s phone call and order another box of upick cups. You also have to remember that in Alberta hail can come in August, two days before Open Farm Days, and you’ll need to cancel hundreds of upick appointments, dig ditches to alleviate water pressure (aka melted hail) in the field and then put on bright smiley faces to greet the amazing folks who signed up for the garden tours and alpaca 101 classes…
All of that being said, we can’t wait for next year. Truly. And if you know anyone looking for an April-October position on a flower farm let us know?
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products?
Find us online at www.bloomson7.ca